Writing vs. Blogging and the Oregonian Version of “Crash”

Blog writing and newspaper column writing are two completely different beasts. Things that go into print demand greater care and a big lineup of important contributors – an editor, a copy-editor, an art director, a photographer, a fact-checker. When you put it down in ink, you want it to be as close to perfect as possible.

On the blog? On the blog I just let it rip. There’s value in that, too – but it’s a different value. My friend Natalie calls it “Heidi on writing vacation” and that kind of nails it. I relax and let the words throw a party. Even though Grit & Glimmer has become more and more refined over the past years, it’s still a place for me to let the good times roll.

Thank god for that – because if I had to go through the publication process every time I produced an article, I might lose my mind.

I get asked about this balance a lot. I’ve been blogging since 2001 and there’s a danger to too much freedom, for sure. Working with the Oregonian and other magazine editors over the past few years has helped me develop discipline, patience, diligence and perseverance.

Writing is work now and I treat it that way. When I was in my early 20′s people would say, “You can write. You should get after that.” They meant that I should start writing for a living and I appreciated the compliments, but I told myself that writing was a special, personal thing – just for me. An art, not to be corrupted or exploited. Sacred.

That’s a load of bullshit.

And it took Laurie Robinson dragging me out from behind this blog (she found me here about three years ago and asked me to do the column for the Oregonian) to make me realize it. Blog writing is fun. This site? I love this site. I love the readers and the discussions and the people I can reach and the conversations that we can have. This site is about interaction and sharing and inspiration. It gives me breathing room. It’s the “writing vacation” I need to stay sane.

But writing here does not push my craft the same way that writing for print and working with editors does. And the craft deserves to be pushed. If you want to be a “real” writer (whatever that is, a whole other blog post, eh?), but you don’t have the balls to send a query letter or put a draft in front of a whip-smart editor with a big, red pen, you might be deceiving yourself. Push the work. Make it hurt a little. Take the risks.

Sometimes it’s hard and sometimes it’s easy. Either way, I wake up every day and get to it. I suck a lot and sometimes I’m good. I’m getting better at being able to tell the difference. I’m getting better at not wincing so much when people who are smarter than me point out the difference.

All this to say, the “Oregonianized” version of the crash story appears in the Travel section today.  It’s a little tighter with a different ending. Public thanks to my editor Laurie Robinson for encouraging me to publish it and for helping me with the refinements.

Thanks also to all of you who took time to send your well wishes through comments, emails, texts and tweets. So much love definitely helps with the healing.

Speaking of healing, here’s the update. All road rash is nearly completely gone (the deeper gash in my hip is being a little stubborn). Shoulder is still sore and I still can’t sleep on my left side, but it’s getting better day by day.

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6 comments

  1. Tigue Howe

    I really enjoy your writing. When will your first book be out?

  2. Nice post, and keep up the great work! I second the book suggestion, can’t wait to see it.

  3. Wow, Otis. I love that. Thank you.

    David and Tigue – you’re very kind and, while it’s terrifying to put it down here in permanent record, it’s on the list. Soon(ish)

  4. Wow! The things I miss when I’m nearly unplugged for 3 weeks. The crash did produce some good writing, and I’m glad you came out of it so well. But I’m very sorry to hear about your crash!

    And I’m a little sad that the final OR article eliminated “This is the “Rookie Shit” exhibit in the museum of dumb-assed road cyclists. Please don’t touch the display.” I’m sure there was a very good reason, but I find the comment relatable. If you remove the word “road”, I’ve had that very thought myself.

  5. Great write on the differences. I sometimes forget this in my own writing and end up submitting stuff I wish I hadn’t. Basic rookie mistakes.
    You talk about writing being “work” I understand the notion of putting in the hours (like training!), but what’s your process?
    I agree with the book idea!
    Thanks

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